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That's because Mr. Dionne has never let being a star in hockey go to his head. He believes small and simple is best when it comes to money and it's best to do things yourself rather than depend on others, which allowed him to escape the fate of some of his peers, who saw the money they earned as professional athletes lost to bad investments and dubious advisers.

Mr. Dionne comes to his investing philosophy naturally, since he was never able to think big as a player at 5-foot-8 and 185 pounds. He used his speed, stickhandling and smarts to become one of the best scorers in NHL history. Selected second overall in the 1971 NHL entry draft behind Guy Lafleur, Mr. Dionne scored 50 or more goals in a season six times.

Mr. Dionne even had the notorious Alan Eagleson as his agent during his 18-year NHL career, but managed to hang on to his money. "I never had a problem with him that I was aware of," Mr. Dionne said.

He avoided problems by handling his money himself and sticking to conservative investments.

"They were always simple investments," Mr. Dionne said. "It was basically term deposits, some mortgages and a few investments with people I still do business with. I never bought stock or anything like that. I'm not a real believer in the stock market."

What he believes in is investing only in things you can see and touch, like real estate and the service industry. And never go for the big score, but work hard and let your money grow gradually.

That philosophy was learned as a child in Drummondville, Que., from his parents Gilbert and Laurrette. It was a working-class family of eight children and when Gilbert went off to work, Laurrette ran a corner store and beauty salon with her children's help.

"It was basically the service business," Mr. Dionne said. "I was pretty good around that cash register and I learned how to take care of customers.

"I guess I still have my mom and dad's mentality. I think about what I can do today, not about making some big score down the road."

Thanks to that philosophy, Dionne is now the owner of several businesses, ranging from a sports memorabilia store near Buffalo to Marcel Dionne Enterprises, which operates promotional events, to Beaver Valley Realty, which is developing a 165-lot subdivision in Niagara Falls, Ont., where he now lives.

He maintains the hands-on approach, so it is not unusual to see Mr. Dionne manning the cash register at his store in Buffalo.

Mr. Dionne keeps all of his businesses separate. He and his family use the cash flow from the store and the promotion company to live on, and the real-estate venture is his major investment.

To take care of retirement for him and his wife, Carol, Mr. Dionne has a series of registered retirement savings plans than run into seven figures. He and Carol, his high-school sweetheart, have three children and two grandchildren.

The RRSP is the one area where he will admit to buying stocks but he makes sure his broker, former NHL player Syl Apps Jr., sticks to bank stocks, Royal Bank of Canada and Toronto-Dominion Bank in particular, and to conservative mutual funds for the most part. But he lets it slip that he took a haircut on Bombardier. "But it's coming back," Mr. Dionne said.

Mr. Dionne also has an NHL pension coming, which he plans to start collecting in three years when he turns 55. Players are eligible to collect at the age of 45, but the payout is better at 55. It's also better thanks to the lawsuit won by a group of NHL players in 1994 that forced the league and its owners to return a pension surplus.

In addition to the pension, Mr. Dionne will also collect a substantial bonus that goes at age 55 to those who played at least 400 games in the NHL.

Mr. Dionne thinks the bonus, for which Mr. Eagleson gave away the players' right to free agency in 1986, may get close to the $250,000 that Mr. Eagleson and the owners claimed it would be.

Mr. Dionne was able to achieve financial security despite not cashing in on the big-money era in the NHL for much of his career. But he did make $900,000 (U.S.) in each of his last two seasons with the New York Rangers. He retired from the NHL in 1989.

Thanks to the lessons he learned from his parents, Mr. Dionne expects a comfortable retirement. He always had an off-season job. The day after he retired from hockey, Mr. Dionne said, "I was up the next morning at 5:30. I got involved in a dry-cleaning store in Mount Kisko, N.Y. Everybody was kind of laughing at that, but I'm the one who's laughing today."

He is laughing because he knows slow and steady may not pay right away but it pays one day.

"I'd rather think about how I'm going to make $100,000 gradually," he said. "I'm going to make my little $1,000 here, $1,500 there and it will add up to $100,000.

To that end, Mr. Dionne does not like to carry large debts. He launched his real-estate venture in Niagara Falls, for example, with the cash from liquidating his real-estate assets in California, which he started accumulating as a young star for the Los Angeles Kings where he played most of his career.

Mr. Dionne said he started buying and selling properties at the age of 24, but only after he educated himself about real estate.

"I asked a lot of questions. Nothing is easy. If you think it's easy to become wealthy, then more people would be doing it."

The simple philosophy extends to Mr. Dionne's lifestyle. He never surrounded himself with the trappings of stardom.

"I was never impressed with people driving big cars and having big houses," he said. "To this day, I'm not. I need very little to live on."

Diversity comes with his different businesses, not investing in different sectors of the stock market.

"I have a [memorabilia]store here and that's cash. It's solid," he said. "I keep an eye on the cash flow. I have the sports marketing company and do over 100 events a year so that's a cash situation, too. I never touch the real estate [for living expenses]

"I've got a couple of companies, so I don't need the banks. I don't want anything to do with the banks.

"The store is mine, I control it, not the bank. If somebody walks in and I don't make the sale, I'm not stressed over it. That's the key."

Retirement for Mr. Dionne means having a guaranteed income, not taking it easy. He may slow down one day, but right now working and making deals are just too much fun.

"To me, there was no such thing as not working," he said.

MARCEL DIONNE

Born: Aug. 3, 1951 in Drummondville, Quebec

Height: 5'8"

Weight: 185 lbs.

Career Highlights: 731 goals, 1,040 assists, 1,771 points in 1,348 games. Twice on NHL's First All-Star Team. Twice won Lester B. Pearson Award as most valuable player selected by his peers. Twice won Lady Byng Trophy as most gentlemanly player.

Playing History: 1971 Selected by Detroit Red Wings

No. 2 over all, NHL Amateur Draft; 1975 joins LA Kings as a free agent; 1980 wins NHL scoring title; 1986 traded to New York Rangers; 1989 Retires; 1992 inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame

Investing history: Worked in parents' corner store in Drummondville as a kid. At age 24, started investing in Los Angeles real estate. After retirement, opened memorabilia store near Buffalo; owns Marcel Dionne Enterprises, which operates promotion events; owns Beaver Valley Realty, which is developing a subdivision in Niagara Falls, where he lives.

Investing style: Cautious. Slow and steady.

Net worth: Seven figures

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